Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Claire Berlinski

Claire Berlinski has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New York Sun, the Oxford International Review, Asia Times, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, Policy Review, Azure, Traveler's Tales, and numerous anthologies.

Lion Eyes, the sequel to her novel Loose Lips, was published in Spring 2007. Her first non-fiction book, Menace in Europe, was published in February, 2006. Her new book, There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, is just out from Basic Books.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Here are some of the books I've looked at over the past week or so. Most are books I'd read before; I just went back to check them again, for one reason or another. I'll try to explain what I was doing that prompted me to pick these up; the logic of it isn't immediately obvious.

I read Bernard Henri-Levy's new book Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism, because I was asked to review it. I don't know if I would have read it otherwise, but I'm very glad I did. I thought it was very effective. The second half of the book, in particular, is outstanding. Then I was thinking about Margaret Thatcher's speech at Bruges (this is the 20-year anniversary of that speech), so I went back to my shelf and had a look at the first and second volumes of her autobiography, as well as her book Statecraft (which I recommend enthusiastically to anyone looking for an introduction to her thoughts about foreign policy). I also re-read parts of John Campbell's gold-standard biography of Thatcher (the second volume), as well as an excellent book, which very few people know about, called The Future of Europe, by the economists Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi. They make a very compelling argument that Europe is on a state-subsidized train to economic and political irrelevance.

Are we counting reading on the Internet, too? Because if so, I also spent a lot of time on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. I stopped by to consult the text of the Bruges speech, but I got sidetracked when I saw that the foundation has published the secret files of George Younger, one of Thatcher's longest-serving Cabinet officers. Interesting! I wish these files had been open when I was doing the research for my book.

Then somehow -- there's no logical connection -- I ended up having a look at my friend Elizabeth Pisani's new book about HIV, The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS. It's great. Then I was thinking about Sarah Palin, which prompted me to think about her speechwriter Matthew Scully and to look again at his book Dominion. This book made a massive impression on me -- in fact, it's the book that made me into a vegetarian. How Scully can reconcile his views with Palin is not quite clear to me. It was none the clearer for having looked at the book again. Somehow from there I followed a link from Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog to Poets.org and managed to waste half a day there.

I'd go back to compile a list of what I read, but I fear being sucked down the vortex again. I found a villanelle I'd once read by Elizabeth Bishop called One Art, which reminded me that Marilyn Hacker had written a clever villanelle in reply, which prompted me to look that up, which prompted me to read quite a bit of Hacker's poetry that I'd never read before; I then tried my hand at writing a villanelle and discovered that it's pretty tough. Then for no special reason I rounded out the evening by reading the middle parts of American Shaolin, by Matthew Polly, which I started a few weeks ago--I'd skipped right to the end to find out how the big fight turned out, but I got curious to know what happened in between.

Oh, and I re-read "The Waste Land," because a friend was visiting and he'd never read it before, so I read it to him. And I re-read the first few chapters of A Tale of Two Cities, for reasons that would take too long to explain.
Visit Claire Berlinski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue